Access Denied

Mieke Bal, Thomas Sykora and Gary Ward

2005, 31:30 minutes, colour, English, Arabic


Ihab (31), a Palestinian academic living in Amsterdam, is preparing to travel to visit his family in Gaza for the first time in four years, and do some fieldwork. Gary (28), an Irish artist also living in Amsterdam, intends to accompany Ihab and film the reunion with his family, the interviews with informants, and the progress of Ihab’s project: to study the cultural memory in Palestine of al nakba, the catastrophe of 1948. While they prepare for the trip, Ihab and Gary become closer. But, once they arrive in Cairo airport, Ihab’s arrest and deportation separates the two.

From here on, the film alternates vistas of the two men’s trip. While Ihab conducts his research with determination and commitment, Gary is flooded by his first encounter with Arabic culture. He turns around in circles, having nothing to do but wait until he can fly back to Amsterdam. Ihab, in contrast, works frantically, but cannot leave on the planned date, since Israel has closed the borders.

This film uses the metaphors of travel and failed encounters for a meditative reflection on the intercultural encounter between Arabic and Western individuals eager, but not always able, to understand each other.

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Critical Writing

Fetal Tissue: Reproductive Rights and Amateur Activist Video
by Patricia R. Zimmermann. Afterimage, Summer 1993, v. 21, no. 1.